Flexible Back: Exercises
Data from the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), shows that Americans spend at least $50 billion every year due to low back pain (3). This is a cost that you might avoid simply by developing a flexible back.
Exercises to develop back flexibility will help ease the tension in your back and make you more agile. Flexibility can help ease back pain and prevent unexpected injuries, whether you’re 15 years of age or approaching 60.
First, you need to understand what makes your back flexible so you can do the right exercises properly.
What Makes Your Back Flexible
Basically, “back flexibility” refers to your ability to move your lower back joints, spine, and back muscles through their complete range of motion.
Several factors make your back flexible.
When you’re young, your body tissues will be more pliable and flexible. At that stage, you’re less likely to develop chronic injuries.
However, your body naturally dehydrates and stiffens as you get older (based on the findings of The Fels Longitudinal Study reviewing the total body water content of 18- to 64-year-old white adults) (10). This makes you less flexible.
Active Lifestyle for a Flexible Back
Generally, people who have an active lifestyle tend to have more flexible backs than people who live sedentary lifestyles. Therefore, exercise plays a critical role in maintaining a flexible back, as revealed in a study of the effects of exercise on fatigue and physical limitations in people with rheumatic diseases (5).
If you don’t exercise, your muscles may lose their elasticity, which affects flexibility.
Healthy Muscle Fiber
Obviously, injured muscles will reduce your back flexibility. On the other hand, healthy muscles are more elastic and increase the range of motion of your spine.
But, would a stronger back mean less flexibility?
Well, you won’t lose flexibility if you move your spine through the full range of motion when developing your muscles. Only when you perform strength training workouts poorly will your flexibility be affected.
Your connective tissue is another key part of a flexible back (11). Connective tissue not only binds muscle fibers together, but also encapsulates them while networking with other organs.
Other aspects that affect flexibility include your stretch reflex and autonomic (involuntary) nervous system.
How to Make Your Back More Flexible
If you want to know how to make your back flexible fast, one of the most effective ways is stretching exercises.
Stretching your back can produce multiple benefits including (9):
- easing low back pain
- reducing tension in your muscles
- improving your range of motion
- enhancing posture
- keeping your spine healthy
To get those benefits, try out these stretches for your back to make it flexible.
Chest to Knee Stretch
Just like many stretches, this workout doesn’t need any equipment. All you need is a bit of floor space.
Follow these steps (1):
- Start by lying on your back.
- Bend both your knees while keeping your feet on the floor.
- Stretch out both hands and grab your right knee.
- Pull the right knee to your chest slowly.
- Hold the knee close to your chest before releasing it slowly back to the ground.
- Alternate with the left knee.
Due to the simplicity of this workout, you can conveniently do it even at work, if you can get some free space in an office.
Or you may do it as a quick workout just before you leave for work or when you’ve just come back from the office. It will certainly help relieve the stress you’ve accumulated throughout the day.
The scorpion ranks among the best tension relieving workouts to make your back flexible.
When you try it, you’ll feel such tension relief that you might want to lie on the same spot for a little longer, just to enjoy the feeling.
Here’s how to do it (7):
- Start by lying on your stomach.
- Keep your feet fully extended and together, and your arms on your sides.
- While twisting your hips, lift your right leg up and cross it over the left leg.
- When you touch the floor with your right foot, hold that position.
- Slowly return to the original position and alternate with the opposite leg.
Although this exercise might seem quite simple, take note that it involves rotation of your spine.
Therefore, if you have back problems, you should probably skip this workout. Twisting your spine when having back problems will put you at risk of developing sacroiliac instability, a herniated disc, or other injuries.
If your back is not particularly flexible, make sure to warm up before this exercise, so your back can be more pliable.
The Sanskrit name for this exercise is Bhujangasana.
It doesn’t just boost your back flexibility, but also exerts your shoulders and chest.
Follow these steps to do it right (4):
- Start by lying on your stomach with your feet fully extended and slightly apart.
- Bend your arms and place them beneath your shoulders.
- While keeping your elbows close to your body, pull your chest up.
- Extend your arms to the degree that you’re comfortable with.
- Hold that position while you take deep breaths.
When doing these exercises, you shouldn’t try to compare your performance with someone else. Slight differences in anatomical structures may impact performance.
For instance, you may have longer/ shorter arms compared to someone else. Or your torso may be shorter or longer. This will influence how far you can extend your arms to fully stretch your spine.
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The spine extension has some similarities to the cobra, but here you won’t use your arms to lift your chest.
Follow these steps (8):
- Start by lying facing down with both your legs and arms fully extended.
- Keep your legs together and your arms at your sides.
- Without using your arms for support, lift your chest up.
- With your chest still up, also lift your legs up.
- Hold that position before returning your chest and legs back down.
Although you don’t need too much space for these kinds of exercises, you do need a bit of free space when doing it at home.
That may mean rearranging your furniture in a way that leaves some space for your workouts (if you don’t have a spare room). A prearranged space is better than having to move around your sofa or dining table every time you need to exercise.
The child’s pose is another exercise that can be both enjoyable and relaxing. It puts you in a position where your body feels quite comfortable yet effectively stretching your back.
Follow these steps to do it right (2):
- Start in a tabletop position, having your knees and the palms of your hands on the floor.
- As you drop your head, push your hips back and toward your heels.
- You’ll get to a position where you’re sitting on your heels and your hands are extended in front of you.
- When you get to that position, hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
If you’ve been wondering about, “how to be more flexible in my legs and back at 55 years old” then this is the solution. You can do this workout quite comfortably even at an advanced age.
As you do these workouts, remember that your body works differently from a machine. A machine like your laptop can be repaired simply by replacing a dead hard drive with a new one. However, you can’t really take out and replace most body parts.
Therefore, it’s better to be cautious and avoid injuries, rather than excessively overexerting yourself. If you injure your limbs, there’s no replacement.
Take things slowly and only do what you can handle.
Inverted Hamstring Stretch
The inverted hamstring stretch will challenge your ability to balance while exerting your hamstrings and back muscles. Your core muscles will get a good workout too.
Here’s how to do the exercise properly (6):
- Start by standing firmly, making sure that you have a very stable posture.
- Your feet should be hip-width apart.
- Now you need to raise your arms fully extended, either to the side or in front.
- Your arms will provide some balance when you eventually stand on one leg.
- Keep your back straight as you lower your torso.
- In the meantime, raise you left leg fully extended and behind you.
- Get your body to a position where your leg and torso are horizontal.
- Alternate with the right leg.
As you may already know, these exercises will help you only if you do them consistently. However, many people often lose interest along the way.
You can try to counter that by giving yourself incentives that make you look forward to the workouts. For example, have a delicious healthy snack only after the workout. There’s a whole range of options to choose from, including: blueberry muffins, acai smoothies, almond date truffles, and coconut yogurt with mango chunks.
Just make sure not to overeat after the workout.
By regularly utilizing these exercises to get a flexible back, you’ll eventually make your body less rigid.
In turn, that will enable you to perform even more demanding tasks than what you thought possible. You might be able to lift weights which was previously borderline unfathomable. Perhaps, you’ll even develop the agility and coordination to dance.
Check out this 20-min Full Body Workout at Home.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 5 simple stretches to relieve low back pain (2019, nbcnews.com)
- 5 Stretches That Will Finally Ease Your Lower Back Pain (2019, msn.com)
- Back Pain Facts and Statistics (n.d., acatoday.org)
- Cobra Pose (n.d., msn.com)
- Effects of exercise on physical limitations and fatigue in rheumatic diseases (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Inverted Hamstring Stretch (n.d., msn.com)
- Scorpion (n.d., msn.com)
- Spine Extension (n.d., msn.com)
- Top 10 Benefits of Stretching (2014, acefitness.org)
- Total body water data for white adults 18 to 64 years of age: The Fels Longitudinal Study (1999, sciencedirect.com)
- What Every Yogi Needs to Know About Flexibility (2018, yogajournal.com)